October again. You read this bilge, you know the drill: It’s a month for thinking about the lessons time teaches us, and what they’re good for today. Not long ago, I came across an entry in my journal that was written in the summer of 2001 after a company bus trip to a baseball game, and which I have edited somewhat. It’s got nothing to do with music, but it does have to do with the lessons of October, and what might be the most important lesson of all. As is always the case with off-topic posts, you can skip it if you want and you won’t hurt my feelings.
On the bus, we sat near a group of four couples, all in their early-to-middle 20s. Three of the couples were guests of one of my colleagues. They came equipped with a cooler full of Miller Lite. Before we’d gotten anywhere near Milwaukee, they had dug deeper into the cooler for giant bottles of cinnamon schnapps and watermelon schnapps, which they passed around with purposeful enthusiasm, encouraging each other to drink. We saw them later at the game. By that time, all of them had the bleary-eyed look of the walking intoxicated. Several were holding bottles of Lite, the wide-mouth plastic bottles that look like nothing so much as baby bottles—an apt metaphor.
On the bus after the game, two of the guys and one of the girls were completely obliterated. The drama that unfolded next is timeless. One of the guys responded to a playful noogie from the other as a major insult. This set him to ranting, in an inchoate, one-syllable manner, about the nature of truth. “It’s all bullshit,” Truthseeker remarked. “We think we’re telling each other the truth but it’s all bullshit.” (Why he suddenly leaped from noogies to Truth is a mystery to me.) An equally intoxicated companion, Angie, reacted tearfully to this rant, and ended up trading seats with Truthseeker so she could sit next to his girlfriend, Judy, who had looked as if she were going to vomit since before gametime, and who slept most of the way home.
Now Truthseeker was in the same seat with Max, Angie’s boyfriend. We have already established Truthseeker as a belligerent drunk and Angie as a weepy drunk. Max was a stupid drunk—although he hadn’t seemed particularly bright when sober, at the start of the bus ride. The editing function that keeps most of us from making asses of ourselves was completely turned off by the alcoholic smorgasbord Max had consumed over the previous six hours.
As the bus rolled west on I-94, Max and Truthseeker plunged into the classic drunk-guy conversation, in which males who would normally eschew such subject matter for fear of seeming gay suddenly start talking about the depths of their friendship and their deepest hopes for finding future happiness, love, joy, and peace. Or that’s how such conversations seem to the intoxicated participants. To a sober observer, they seem a little less coherent. At one point, I guessed it was even money whether Max and Truthseeker would come to blows or start crying.
As we got to Madison, the conversation waned, and Max spiraled into greater stupidity, at one point informing his fellow passengers in a loud voice, “I’ve got a huge boner right now.” I didn’t doubt it. Angie, his girlfriend, a blonde with a too-pretty face and a firm little body, likely kept Max in perpetual bonerhood most of the time. His friends were shushing him by this time, even the ones who had been half-asleep on the ride home. I didn’t see what direction all of them went after leaving the bus—no doubt Truthseeker and Judy went home to get sick, while Max and Angie went away to have five minutes of fumbling sex before passing out.
I do not know what became of Max, Angie, Truthseeker, and Judy, or where they are now, in their mid 30s and far removed from a drunken night they have probably forgotten. This I do know: When we’re young, we can’t see clearly who we are, and our opinions about what our lives are supposed to be about—what Truthseeker and Max were trying to figure out that night—is so much balloon juice. Only when we’re older do we approach something like understanding. Only now do we begin to see ourselves as we really are, and as we really were. Which is idiots, mostly.